Look down the rabbit hole

and see how far it goes…

Dr. John Kuehn, Historian extraordinaire and Staff member of the Army Command and General Staff College, has written a new book on the building of the fleet during the interwar period. USNI Blog has one of their trademark quick interviews/book reviews up and it’s got some interesting insight, the most important of which (I think) is this:

The U.S. Navy is basically in an interwar period right now-the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite what the pundits might say, are land-centric with the Navy in a supporting role. Our command of the sea for these operations is not in jeopardy. Although not constrained by a naval arms limitation treaty per se, we are constrained by budgets and a very uncertain security environment. So I think if naval officers want to understand the dynamics of building a fleet in an uncertain environment during peacetime and with declining budgets, then the interwar period and the General Board’s collaborative and collegial approach have much to teach us. The General Board had one advantage over us, they clearly identified the threat as Japan…which made war plans and design simpler (although not necessarily easy-see Clausewitz Book I chapter 7 on friction). The threat is nebulous…and dependent on policy. The old Mahanian solution of building against the most capable foreign navy does not work today because the U.S. Navy is clearly the most capable navy on the face of the earth right now, it wasn’t that way in 1919. In some sense our challenge is much greater than the General Board faced, but I think their basic approach, as reflected in my book, had much wisdom in it.

His last point is the most important. “The old Mahanian solution of building against the most capable foreign navy does not work today” I completely agree.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Big Navy(tm) is listening. Considering the economic intertwining going throughout throughout the world, there are many who consider China an opportunity, not a threat. However, this has not stopped the Navy from pointing to the Red Dragon in an effort to find a “near peer competitor” to justify funding.

There’s plenty of other reasons for building an efficient, effective fleet. Unfortunately, since the Navy benefited so much from the threat of the Soviet Union, we have no other paradigm in which to operate. Obviously, the only way to get funding for expensive ships is to point the finger at a faceless horde of *gasp* foreigners hell bent on world domination.

Instead of trying to generate an enemy, we should evaluate what’s going on in the world and define a workable, achievable naval strategy from the forces actually at play. If that means an entire fleet of submarines, LCS, and a few carriers, then so be it. But continuing on our current path is simply not the way. We spend our time trying to justify the legitimacy of the threat instead of on how our plan is the best way to handle the threat.

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4 Responses to Look down the rabbit hole

  1. Niall says:

    “Instead of trying to generate an enemy, we should evaluate what’s going on in the world and define a workable, achievable naval strategy from the forces actually at play.”

    Very, very sage advice. You would think being the most powerful navy in the world would free us up from having to have “an enemy” to justify our navy’s existence, but it seems not.

    Where our navy obviously has a mission is keeping the straits of Hormuz open to shipping (when we’re not colliding with our own ships there!), and also keeping shipping lanes open in general.

    Apart from that it’s difficult to see what the missions would be. Thoughts anyone?

  2. Hayball says:

    Try this on for size: a large balanced fleet; capable of protection of shipping; major blue water sea combat at the fleet to fleet level; seizure and development of advance naval bases in time of major war; seizure and development of lodgements to project and support major overseas armies on foreign shores when required in support of national strategy; the strategic deterrance of potential foes; and humanitarian intervention as appropriate in cases of natural disaster; will be the best support and defense of the long term safety and prosperity of the republic? If the Army and the air force need our assistance, the Navy will of course do what it can, within the limits of maintaining the ability to do its own missions.

  3. Niall says:

    So in other words, no real change in strategy, just be able to do everything, everywhere, all the time? That’s not a strategy, you know. That’s a wish list. You realize the Navy will never get the money to do this.

  4. Kierra says:

    Thanks for sharing. Awylas good to find a real expert.

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